Happy Birthday, Denisa! We’ve Come a Long Way

What a difference a year makes. A year ago was the first day that I worked from home. The day before we’d announced my library would be closing to the public and to the university community. A year ago today was also Denisa’s birthday. The kids were also transitioning to a “short break” that was planned to be over at the end of April. The goal at the time, as I recall, was to do a deep clean of the school and then go back to normal.

In so many ways, the past year feels like a complete wash. I keep telling people that I have a hard time figuring out time when it comes to pre-COVID and COVID. Some days I marvel that it’s really only been a year since the shutdown started. Other days I marvel that it’s already been a year, if that makes sense. The past year feels both far too long and far too short at the same time.

When I took a bit of time to go back over the emails from back then and check on my schedule, it’s amazing how much has happened. How up in the air everything was back then. We’ve ironed out so many of the kinks in the ensuing year, clawing back some semblance of what life used to be like as we try to compromise with what it’s like now. My weekly Zoom presence is down to a mere 15-20 hours per week on average, so that’s something.

If you’d told me back then that we’d still be in the middle of all this a year late, there’s no way I would have believed you. (I mean, I bought tickets for a Thanksgiving trip, which got canceled along with everything else.) I also think I would have had a much, much harder time facing the year ahead. This is definitely one instance where not knowing how long it would last worked to my advantage, because I got to tackle problems as they came, instead of feeling overwhelmed right from the beginning.

What will things feel like a year from now? A decade? Will this year (or more?) of pandemic living all be one big blur? Will I look back with some sort of strange nostalgia for how it was? How simple everything became for a while? It’s easy to forget just how upsetting it all was while we were going through it, and in many ways, I think it’s easy to forget how upsetting it is now. We might have become numb to the experience of living this way, but I think once it’s truly over, it’ll be a huge relief. (Though I don’t think it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. The shutdown happened all at once. The return will be a trickle over a long period of time. Something that’s already started.)

But this wasn’t supposed to be about the pandemic. It was supposed to be about Denisa’s birthday! Last year, it got lost in the shuffle of everything else that was going on. I’m afraid it’s largely getting lost in the shuffle this year as well. Small celebrations. No big parties. Family-centered. Still, it’s a reminder that (at least for now) we’ve made it through the pandemic quite well, all things considered. We’re all still healthy. We’re all still employed. The kids have been back in school in person part of the time since September. There are many, many people who have been really badly hit by the pandemic. We’ve had a couple of close calls, but we’re still pushing forward and hoping for the best.

It’s been a tough year. Lots of pressure beyond just the pandemic, and that’ll strain any number of relationships. I’m really grateful Denisa and I have come through it as well as we have. Has it all be sunshine and roses? Nope. But we’re still here for each other and supporting each other as best we can. I’m definitely hoping this coming year is a much brighter one than the one we just left. I’d say it wouldn’t be hard, but I still remember how much people complained about 2019, so . . .

In any case, happy birthday, Denisa!


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